Creepy

CREEPY, thriller, not rated, in Ja­panese with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

Cast­ing aside the un­like­li­hood that a for­mer de­tec­tive who has been help­ing the po­lice with a cold case would just hap­pen to be the neigh­bor of a se­rial killer con­nected to that case, Kiyoshi Kuro­sawa’s new film is an ef­fec­tive cat-and-mouse thriller that slowly re­veals a sin­is­ter and macabre sce­nario.

Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishi­jima) is re­tired from the po­lice force after his failed in­ter­ven­tion in a hostage sit­u­a­tion left an in­no­cent vic­tim dead. Hav­ing just moved into a new neigh­bor­hood, Takakura is teach­ing crim­i­nal stud­ies at a univer­sity when a col­league’s re­search into a miss­ing per­sons case piques his in­ter­est. A daugh­ter (Haruna Kawaguchi), who was away at school when her en­tire fam­ily dis­ap­peared, has only vague mem­o­ries of what hap­pened be­fore they van­ished. She mis­trusts the po­lice, who put her through the ringer with their ques­tion­ing be­fore the case went cold. A friend on the force (Masahiro Toda) asks for Takakura’s help in ques­tion­ing her fur­ther, think­ing he might gain her trust.

Mean­while, Takakura’s wife Ya­suko (Yuko Takeuchi) has been get­ting to know the neigh­bor Nishino (Teruyuki Ka­gawa), a mis­trust­ful, an­ti­so­cial man who seems to lack all sense of pro­pri­ety. He passes him­self off as a fam­ily man, with a sickly wife whom no one has seen and a young daugh­ter who, in a des­per­ate mo­ment, tells Takakura that Nishino is not re­ally her fa­ther. The other neigh­bors don’t like him, and he trig­gers Takakura’s cop in­stincts. But though Ya­suko fears Nishino, she also seems drawn to him, in­ex­pli­ca­bly de­fend­ing him to her hus­band.

Creepy tele­graphs its an­tag­o­nist from his first in­tro­duc­tion — there’s no mys­tery there. The plea­sure is in watch­ing Takakura put the pieces to­gether be­fore it’s too late. Nishino slowly in­sin­u­ates him­self be­tween Takakura and Ya­suko, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the fact that their re­la­tion­ship has grown dis­tant, and he does so with glee, channeling the spirit of Peter Lorre with­out slip­ping into imi­ta­tion. The film is ef­fec­tive in keep­ing the au­di­ence in the dark about the na­ture of Ya­suko and Nishino’s re­la­tion­ship. Nishino has a way of mak­ing his vic­tims obe­di­ent to his will. But what seems like a con­found­ing lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Takakura and Ya­suko has a pur­pose be­hind it. There are rea­sons Ya­suko doesn’t tell her hus­band about Nishino’s ad­vances — and the greater atroc­i­ties she wit­nesses in­side his home — even when do­ing so would help the case.

Creepy is most ef­fec­tive in its first half and trods more fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory in its sec­ond, but it of­fers a unique spin on se­rial killer thrillers. The set-up is plainly ridicu­lous and far­fetched, but it is di­rected with a steady hand, is well-acted, and de­liv­ers the chills. The fi­nal scene re­calls the con­clu­sion of Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder Gen­eral in one re­spect — a gut­tural scream of hor­ror, the only ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to ev­ery­thing that has come be­fore. — Michael Abatemarco

Masahiro Toda and Hidetoshi Nishi­jima; above, from left to right, Ryoko Fu­jino, Nishi­jima, and Teruyuki Ka­gawa

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